News / Europe

Britain Prepares for Visit by Pope Benedict XVI

Multimedia

Audio
Henry Ridgwell

Pope Benedict XVI will arrive Thursday in Britain for a four-day visit.  It is only the second papal visit to the country since the Reformation and the first official state visit.

Claz Gomez taps away eagerly at the keyboard of her computer.  She is hugely excited about the pope's visit to Britain and has set up a papal visit blog that has so many hits the Catholic Church has brought her on board to help promote Pope Benedict's tour.

"My family would say I have been completely obsessed I think!  My family would say I am obsessed," said Gomez.  "Over the past week and a half I have been trying to get articles out once a day.  For example I have a blog post on the 'Pilgrim Pack'.  The young people of the diocese have received a lovely trendy red T-shirt, the young pilgrim's booklet, and this is England so we might just need the papal visit poncho!"

Grainne McGuire also is busy preparing for the pope's visit, but she has very different feelings.  In a small London apartment, she and a dozen other young people are making placards and imitation miters to take on the planned demonstrations against the visit, which thousands of people are expected to join.

"We are making these hats and we are going to be wearing them with slogans like 'God loves children, women and gays', 'Shame on You, You Bring Shame on Catholics', and 'Pope Benedict, Where is the Love?'  There are various slogans; we are going to be wearing them on our march with different banners with the reasons why we are protesting the visit," said McGuire.

These opposing views reflect the divisions that the visit is causing throughout society.  

The pope has thanked Britain in advance for the effort involved.  "I am very much looking forward to my visit to the United Kingdom, and I send heartfelt greetings to all the people of Great Britain.  I am aware that a vast amount of work has gone into the preparations for the visit."

The cost of the preparations, $19 million, excluding security, is just one of the objections raised by opponents.  Benedict's trip is a full state visit, partly funded by the British taxpayer, a privilege that has angered protesters, such as those attending this town-hall debate on the issue.

Under the umbrella group 'Protest the Pope,' they plan to hold a series of demonstrations during the visit.  Human-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell is at the forefront of the protests.  "We do not fund visits by the Grand Mufti of Mecca or the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, so why should the pope's visit get this special privileged financial support?  In particular we are concerned about the pope's role in the cover-up of child abuse," said Tatchell.

The issue of child abuse within the Catholic Church has resurfaced with further allegations coming to light, prompting accusations of a cover-up.  The pope's visit to Britain has rekindled anger among victims and campaigners who believe the Church has not done enough to address the issue.

Despite the controversy, Catholics from across Britain, and even many overseas visitors, are gearing themselves up for the opportunity to see the pope.  

Benedict will celebrate Mass in Westminster Cathedral in central London before addressing 2,500 young people on the square outside.  The Bishop here says it is right that the pope is being afforded a full state visit.

"The pope may not be a king of a great nation, but he is the spiritual leader of 1 in 5 people on the planet, and he is going to do a considerable amount of good while he is here I am sure, and it is quite right for our nation to fund that," said the Bishop at Westminster Cathedral.

Pope Benedict has a tightly-packed schedule in Britain; he will celebrate two open-air Masses in Scotland and London, he will meet Queen Elizabeth and Prime Minister David Cameron, and he will conduct the beatification of a Cardinal.

For Gomez and tens of thousands of other pilgrims, it will be a unique opportunity to see and hear from the figurehead of their faith.  McGuire and thousands of other protesters also will be following the pope every step of the way to make their objections to the visit loud and clear.

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More